Expanse Introduces Its Next Major Villain... With Just 2 Episodes Left

Caution: spoilers ahead for The Expanse season 6, episode 4

The Expanse just introduced Winston Duarte, the next major villain from the book series, but with only 2 episodes remaining, why is The Expanse building toward its future? Keon Alexander's Marco Inaros had The Expanse's main antagonist gig locked up throughout season 5. The extremist Belter evolved from a small-time terrorist into the Belt's de facto leader, commanding his self-appointed Free Navy on a crusade of violence against Earth, Mars, and any of his own people who refuse to bend the knee. The conflict against Marco dominates into season 6, but with cracks beginning to show in his regime, it's safe to assume The Expanse's current run will bring down the Free Navy curtain.

And that means The Expanse as a whole will end with Marco as the final villain. Shortly ahead of The Expanse season 5's premiere in 2020, Alcon Entertainment confirmed the live-action adaptation of James S.A. Corey's sci-fi novels would run for a single further season on Amazon Prime. Comprising only 6 episodes, The Expanse season 6 is, in official terms at least, the show's conclusion. Nevertheless, those closing episodes have teased several major events from later books - Cara's story on Laconia, further clues regarding the mysterious alien race that wiped out the Protomolecule's creators, etc. In an even bolder flex, The Expanse season 6, episode 4 ("Redoubt") drops the clearest future setup yet.

Related: The Expanse's Canterbury Reference Ties Into Holden's Episode 3 Decision

The Expanse season 6 debuts Dylan Taylor as Laconia's Admiral Winston Duarte. The Martian has been mentioned and alluded to as one of the ringleaders behind The Expanse season 5's rogue defectors, but "Redoubt" marks Duarte's first proper onscreen appearance. He attends the wake of Cara's deceased brother, then talks with the young girl about Mars' dream dying in order for Laconia to flourish as a new civilization. Paolo Cortázar then rushes into the room, excitedly bringing good news from his efforts to activate Laconia's dormant alien spacecraft using the Protomolecule sample stolen from Fred Johnson. Fans of The Expanse's book series will instantly recognize Winston Duarte as the story's next major antagonist after Marco Inaros.

Winston Duarte's appearance in The Expanse season 6 clearly isn't a mere fan-pleasing cameo - it's a fully-fledged character introduction. The villain foreshadows his future plans and hints toward the philosophy that makes Laconia such a massive threat in The Expanse's future timeline. Dylan Taylor gets across how his version of Duarte operates, and establishes Laconia's ice-cold military leader as the polar opposite of Marco Inaros' fiery personality. Cortázar's arrival further confirms Duarte isn't just making a bonus cameo in The Expanse season 6, teasing the Admiral's ascension to main villain status by harnessing the Protomolecule power on Laconia.

Winston Duarte's The Expanse debut would be hugely exciting... if there weren't a mere 2 episodes remaining in the series. Any other show entering its final 3 hours of TV would be wrapping up the current villain, rather than looking toward the next. The Expanse introducing Winston Duarte so late in the game surely means something is in the pipeline for a post-season 6 continuation. Maybe The Expanse season 7 will drop somewhere other than Amazon or, more likely, a movie adaptation of books 7, 8 and 9 is in the works.Winston Duarte would play a major narrative role in either scenario, and a secret sequel would certainly explain why The Expanse season 6 goes to the trouble of casting Marco Inaros' villainous successor and giving him a spotlight in episode 4.

Or perhaps The Expanse is simply adapting the books authentically - in exactly the same way Alcon would've if Amazon hadn't pulled the plug. That means telling the story of book 6 (Babylon's Ashes) ominous setup and all, regardless of whether those hints get paid off. Time will tell whether The Expanse season 6's Winston Duarte is a tease destined to go unfulfilled, or a portent of doom for James Holden's future.

More: The Expanse: What's Going On With The Laconian Dog In Season 6?

The Expanse season 6 continues every Friday on Amazon Prime.

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